What kind of game-changing results could be achieved if college students were invited to work on commercializing new business ideas for a large company?
For six months from September 2018 to February 2019, students at Keio University's Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC) attended lectures given by Game Changer Catapult and Masahiro Kotosaka, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Policy Management. As part of the project, the students engaged in collaborative efforts aimed at creating new business ideas to envision the future of home appliances.
Open innovation with students
Through the activities of Game Changer Catapult (GCC), Panasonic has uncovered new business ideas using a bottom-up process within the company. GCC has also exhibited at South by Southwest (SXSW), and various other exhibitions and events, in order to further refine proposals generated within the company. It is an open innovation process involving co-creation with outside partners in order to advance successful new business creation.
Essentially, open innovation is an effective means for uncovering hidden customer needs that would not otherwise be noticed by those inside the company. The key is to utilize external knowledge and ideas not found internally. The greater the mix of people with dissimilar thinking, the more likely it is to create new customer value that could not otherwise be found.
So what can be created through open innovation between a large company like Panasonic and a highly diverse group of people, namely, university students? This project was launched in order to find out.
The partner for this GCC collaboration was Keio University's Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC), which aims to deliver real-world education for the 21st century through practical application that crosses existing disciplines. As a leading Japanese expert in management strategy research, Associate Professor Masahiro Kotosaka has attracted some of the most talented students at SFC, and 50 members of his seminar participated in this project.
The students were divided into eight teams, and two teams were assigned to each of four business proposals chosen for commercialization by Panasonic's Appliances Company. A member of Panasonic's GCC was appointed to serve as the mentor for each the four proposals. With this setup, the eight teams of students worked on prototype creation in order to commercialize their respective proposals.
On-stage discussion by Associate Professor Kotosaka, and Masa Fukata from Game Changer Catapult
Game-changing developments were achieved for each proposal
On December 17, 2018, the eight teams of students were ready to present their final reports, and the gathered Panasonic employees eagerly waited to hear the students' creative thoughts and approaches. While keeping the core elements of each proposal, they created game-changing improvements, highlighted social issues and the unique struggles faced by their generation, while making clear the possibilities offered by their solutions.
Aromation, a business proposal to provide personalized music and scent according to each individual's mood and preference, was reimagined as Palbum, a home appliance to promote mental health using color and scent. The device gauges the individual's frame of mind by recording voice, music, and photos shared by the user, and expresses the user's mood through scents and the colors of a hologram flower.
The college students of today are digital natives living in a world where online social networks and smartphones give them access to an amount of information that is 500 times greater than it was 10 years ago. While making full use of social networks to communicate with friends, and continually wanting to know more, they also experience social media fatigue.
It is estimated that about 930,000 middle and high school students are addicted to social media use in Japan, and such youth are 2.7 times more likely to suffer from depression. In order to overcome this problem, people need to have time and opportunities to look inside themselves, rather than focusing on outward communication.
By writing down their own thoughts, playing their favorite music, and taking pictures, users can accumulate information about their feelings using Palbum (= perfume album), which then generates personalized combinations of fragrances and hologram flowers. During each use, the flowers and fragrances generated by Palbum become linked to the user's memories and thoughts at that time, and it becomes a unique album of color and fragrance for the user, which can help prevent depression.
Aromation was not the only proposal that inspired game-changing improvements by the teams. With the aim of providing reliable, healthy and delicious lunches ready anytime, without the need to wait or leave the office, the totteMEAL proposal seeks to meet the needs of business people who sometimes find themselves unable to secure an adequate lunch.
The students turned this concept into Letwork, a matching-service idea that promotes interpersonal communication within an organization or community, by using the lunch service as a hub. The idea is to make effective use of office lunch hours and matching people who have similar challenges with those who the knowledge to solve them. By enabling these people to eat lunch together, it is possible to improve the creativity of individuals and the company to which they belong. Letwork is a unique service idea that can help realize such goals.
Other business ideas were also investigated based on issues from the students' own viewpoints, and were broadly expanded into concepts that help solve social problems and promote social change. Indeed, they succeeded in fulfilling the aim of the project, which was to come up with game-changing developments.
On to Slush Tokyo2019
After the final presentations and review, Masa Fukata, General Manager of GCC, remarked, "The SFC student presentations have surpassed our expectations at Panasonic. Many offered outstanding business visions, and that is what generates innovation. I would like us to work diligently with them for future commercialization."
Associate Professor Kotosaka stated, "The past few months have been a valuable experience for our students, as they were able to engage with Panasonic employees and even spend extended periods of time together with them. The concentration of the students in the final stage was wonderful. I am especially pleased with their ability to complete working prototypes, such as Palbum, on display today."
The two business ideas mentioned above were selected as the outstanding proposals from the final presentation event, and will be exhibited along with their prototypes at Slush Tokyo 2019*2, being held on February 22 and 23, 2019.
Be sure to regularly visit the official GCC website, as it will soon feature these very challenging and worthwhile initiatives, with the aim of having new business ideas from Panasonic being actually commercialized by university students.
Student participants for the project
*1: Masahiro Kotosaka, Associate Professor, Faculty of Policy Management, Keio University
Kotosaka specializes in international management and management strategy and is engaged in research and study that combines investigation with practical application. He also promotes social contribution activities. Under his direction, the Kotosaka Seminar enables students to extensively study the nodal points of international management and entrepreneurship from a strategic perspective, under the banner of International Business & Entrepreneurship Research (IBER).
*2: Slush Tokyo 2019
Slush has grown from a gathering in Finland to a startup event of global magnitude. Global entrepreneurs, investors, executives, companies, journalists, and students, as well as talented people from everywhere who are trying to realize their dreams, will all be gathering in Tokyo. It is an event for people with diverse perspectives who have a burning desire to change the world with their own hands. Slush Tokyo 2019 is expected to welcome a record 8,000 people, enabling the further acceleration of community momentum.
Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC)
Slush Tokyo 2019